Africa and its Importance to
African American Studies
Tibor P. Nagy, Jr.
Texas Tech University
Africa is to African American Studies much as oxygen is to the study of life on earth; the second would not exist without the first. This chapter does not examine the history of that link—that would have to be a much longer work. Instead, I will focus on the importance of contemporary Africa and how African American Studies should be a catalyst—not only for making known Africa’s reality beyond its grossly distorted image, but also for helping Africa assume its proper role in today’s global system. One hopes this will challenge readers to make involvement in Africa part of their life’s work. We will examine the current state of Africa, both its negatives and positives, with data as well as non-quantifiable factors. I will then discuss the importance of exchanges. Finally, I will present some opportunities for getting involved.
Although this chapter relates to “Africa”—much of my discussion will be specific to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)—the forty-eight countries south of the Sahara Desert. While the African Union and United Nations agencies are organized along continental lines, many international organizations and US government agencies, such as the US Department of State, treat SSA as a distinct grouping, and include the nations along Africa’s Mediterranean coast as part of the Mid-East group.
The first time I met the Reverend Jesse Jackson was in 1992 when he was in Cameroon attempting to mediate between the authoritarian government